For worse, and for better 💍💍
Tim and I have been together for about 14 years, and married now for 10.
Today is our anniversary.
Intentionally I chose to share a recent photo rather than a wedding photo - because, well, to be brutally honest - our wedding day was a bit of a farce. Not because I didn't or don't love Tim as dearly now as I did then, but because the girl from ten years ago is a stranger in many ways to me and to us.
That girl couldn't even get through her wedding night or wedding day sober. I put in what was, for me, a herculean effort - and didn't get ‘’properly wasted’’ until after midnight ... but really, you'd think on such a special day, I'd want it to all be perfect, right?
Alcoholism doesn't work like that. In the end, will power doesn't even enter the equation.
This post is a little more about Tim’s side of the story. Something we are acutely aware needs to be told. (And that will happen. It’s a work in progress).
For now, this is a brief insight for family members of those who fight addiction; those who have to witness the person they love destroying themselves in increments. And those who have to deal with the aftermath while being brutally, cruelly stone cold sober.
Much like with those who suffer through the horror and shame of addiction in a remote setting - those who love an alcoholic suffer just as much, if not worse.
And just as with addiction - being a family member trapped in their own hell is a lonely place to be; and also woefully lacking in awareness, education, support, or help.
Tim spent the first half of his life with me explaining himself (and me) to friends and family. Because what they saw was the girl who went out and got messy. It didn’t exactly endear me as a ‘great catch’ to many.
What he saw was the girl behind closed doors. And between the chaos and pain and destruction - he was the only one who saw the real me and the brokenness, the big heart and the fierce loyalty, love, dedication, and total admiration I held for him.
The early years were NOT a fairy tale. It was hugely dysfunctional. I was a typical alcoholic who was selfish, self-destructive, and a walking, talking contradiction. Sober me had high standards while drunk me had none.
We knew nothing of this complex disease. We were bumbling around like the naive and completely inexperienced people we were. Back then - we didn’t know I was an alcoholic in the making because we thought only people who drank all day or in the morning or every day were alcoholics.
Like everyone else we figured I was just a ‘’bit of a mess’’ and hopeless on the grog.
For years and years and years, people who were friends of Tim’s would meet me, look me up and down, and declare promptly with barely hidden derision or disbelief that I was ‘’very fortunate’’ indeed to be his girlfriend. The subtext was abundantly clear.
And you know what, I don’t blame those people one little bit. Nor do I blame them for when, at the end, they told him (begged him) to leave me. Because I was doing the same.
I recall in the summer of 2015 sitting with Tim, and saying ‘’I can’t do this. I am beyond help. You need to leave me. Please.’’
I’d been saying it for years.
I knew that if Tim walked away, I would wind up dead in next to no time. But I was also aware that I was ruining his life as well as my own. At that stage, I didn’t care about me or if I lived. But I wanted him to at least have freedom and joy. And I knew I had taken them both.
Equally vividly - I recall Tim looking at me with complete and unshakable certainty and saying, quietly, ‘’I made a vow, for better or for worse. And I will never leave you or forsake you.
No part of me could understand his courage or loyalty. Abandonment was the one thing I had come to expect. So I would collapse into him and just sob, and sob, and sob until I fell into an exhausted sleep.
And then, within a day or a week or whatever it was - I would go back to the bottle. Because that is what alcoholism is. And that’s what alcoholism does.
We both walked around equal parts baffled, terrified, and in pain. For years and years and years. There were horrific moments, arguments, despair and overwhelm so huge that there seemed no way out.
We didn’t know what alcoholism is. We didn’t know that I was fighting a deadly disease that was progressive and fatal. We had no access to real talk, real help, or real support. We were completely isolated in our shame and our pain.
And while we did our level best to fight it - we had no chance.
See - the thing is, just like with addiction - nobody talks about how it is to be the family member. However of course in a small town environment - especially in a small town environment - everyone is more than happy to speak in whispers behind your back and to speculate and gossip or feign interest or even pity - but few are there genuinely and for the long haul. Because it’s absolutely bloody exhausting.
There would even frequently be these bizarre and surreal and somewhat ironic moments when people would come to our home and get very drunk and then proceed to discuss Tim’s drunk wife, with Tim.
Again, I bear no grudge for that behaviour - it merely illustrates the insanity of our alcohol-fuelled society. We happily accept alcoholic behaviour - but only to a point…
The tragedy is that between ‘’acceptable’’ and ‘’end-stage-alcoholism’’ is when people are lost. Some, forever.
Those of you who know Tim properly will know he is an intensely loyal, decent, and humble man. I literally don’t think I’ve ever heard a single bad or unkind word said about him. He is also intensely private; and therefore everything he’s done in the past six years is for others - and is a further illustration of his generosity and willingness to put himself to one side for the greater good.
When I first became willing, honest, and ready to be a sober person - Tim had his hand on my back the entire time. In moments of bone-shaking terror, fear, intimidation or outright humiliation … he would look me square in the eye and calmly say ‘’it’s okay Shan - we keep going. One foot in front of the other. This is your calling.’’
When I begged him to leave the district when I realised how utterly ashamed I was for him and for me - not to mention how isolated and alone and without a genuine friend or support network I was in his community (never mine) he assured me that in time - things would change. He encouraged me to face my past, and reminded me that ‘’running’’ had never solved a thing.
He was right. Running would have changed nothing. And while I still mostly don’t feel part of the community I spent the past 14 years living in - I no longer crave acceptance from the people I once wished so desperately would invite me in, and nor do I have the old ancient aching need to ‘’belong’’ in spaces I never did fit. Now, I don't want to fit there. And that is freedom.
I just focus on our work of helping others farther afield. And for the first time in my entire adult life I value myself and have learned this extraordinary thing called self-respect. Tim taught me that. He taught me how from effort comes reward, and how to be quiet and confident at the same time.
The old things that used to bother me are peripheral noise now. Now, I understand that all over Australia other people who could not have a family, or who had to overcome addiction need a tribe, too. And that is where my home is. With them. Through this charity.
For both Tim and myself - the most genuine and authentic joy, friendships and peace have come from our brokenness. Today we are hugely blessed to have friends in our lives through our work via the charity. And many of our ancient friendships have been re-kindled and strengthened over time and with healing and understanding.
Tim has taught me the true value of commitment, courage, and authenticity at all times.
Do I always get it right? Hell NO. I am still a hugely and immensely flawed human who is evolving and growing and making endless mistakes along the way. Which is precisely why I loathe words like ‘influencer’ or ‘guru’ or ‘expert’ preceding my name. Because I am none of those things. I am just a recovered alcoholic like many others - doing what I can. I am neither unique or special.
But it’s thanks to Tim and his constant-ness, his faith, and his big heart that I (we) can do this on a bigger scale than most. Despite his discomfort around public things. And mine, too. Yes - you read that right. Sometimes being in the public eye is bone-achingly exhausting, treacherous, and awful.
We don’t do this for publicity or prestige or because it's easy. We do it because we could not have children, and because we knew it was a calculated risk that we were prepared to take in order to simply help others.
Our lives are not perfect. Our marriage is far from perfect. I am still working through the detritus of my past and the impact that still holds over many aspects of my life and therefore my marriage to this good man.
Oh, and for the record - Tim isn’t perfect, either. But he’s perfect for me, and I know he was sent straight from God for the hardest of jobs with the most broken of people.
And together, we are imperfectly perfect.
Happy ten year anniversary to you, darling Timbo.
Thank you for all that you are and all that you do.
Thank you for backing this dark horse when everyone else told you to walk away. Including me.
Sorry I couldn’t be there today.
Love you mate.
Thank you for being the foundation upon which thousands and thousands of people are now talking, healing, and finding hope. It is all because of you. That was your calling.
Important disclaimer: as with all my personal posts - please note that while the word ''alcoholic'' is not something that everyone resonates with - but for me it was a word and a truth (and an acceptance) that changed my life. As a national charity - we don't advocate one size for all - and we encourage readers to find what resonates for them, personally. For some, it's Grey Area Drinking, for others it's addiction. Whatever works for the individual is best. For me, my truth was that I had become an alcoholic, or, someone over who alcohol had total and complete control. Today I identify as a ''recovered alcoholic'' - which for me means that I could never drink again - but that nor do I want to. I am free of its power, and no longer do I crave the substance and drug that stole half of my life.